NAPLES — Prime rib is one of the most popular beef dishes in the world. In England it is traditionally served with Yorkshire pudding, a decadent, batter-based accompaniment to roasted beef.
When in England, I always treat myself to an excursion to Cricketers, Clavering restaurant, located in a country inn among so many picturesque places in Essex. The standing rib roast and Yorkshire pudding are so good at this impossibly charming establishment owned by none other than "Naked Chef" Jamie Oliver's parents, I actually have flown into the Stansted airport instead of London Heathrow because Stansted is closer to Cricketers, Clavering.
It's rare to find that kind of flavor stateside because the British have spoiled me for the real thing. But a new Naples restaurant — Pate's House of Prime Rib, is keeping me firmly grounded nowhere near England.
They say perfecting prime rib is in the blood, and in Naples that kind of talent is synonymous with the name Pate. The Pate family is a beef legend in Southwest Florida, having opened several restaurants. Three generations of Pates make up the soul of Pate's House of Prime Rib. Stanly Pate runs the place and carves the beef from a ginormous cart in the middle of the vast restaurant. His brother Nate Pate is the chef. Stanly Pate's son, Chris Pate, is the maitre'd and Stanly's wife, Julie, keeps everyone in line.
Pate's House of Prime Rib is the second operating now, in addition to its steak house presence at 1100 U.S. 41 N. in Naples. This one is in Coastland Mall on the U.S. 41 side of the mall, in the former Ted's Montana Grill. But you'd never know it from the decor. In the doorway you're greeted by the jovial Beefeater Stanly Pate has owned for decades.
The dark wood interior design, long bar, lots of brass and open kitchen are welcoming and warm. Semi-private booths and well-appointed tables lend to a fine-dining atmosphere, but the Pates are all about family, so it's OK to bring the kids. The scent of roast and baked goods hangs in the air, calling up memories of cooler weather and cozy gatherings.
Serving the prime rib at Pate's House of Prime Rib is a massive undertaking that Stanly Pate relishes. Chef Nate prepares the prime rib with a special dry rub he creates in-house, and while the inside of the prime rib is succulent to a fault, the outside of the beef is bursting with irresistible roasted flavor and seasonings.
The juices from the beef will saturate your plate, but that's the whole point. After all, Yorkshire pudding awaits. It's made fresh at Pate's House of Prime Rib, and the moist, hollow goodness is the perfect accompaniment to the beef.
For beef lovers who prefer a grilled steak to prime rib, there are many choices. The beef the Pates select is flavorful with just the right amount of marbling and grilled well. They understand correct temperatures here. They offer a host of typical side dishes, but the creamed spinach was a favorite by far.
Speaking of — or rather, whining about — side dishes: At most steakhouses, the al a carte offering can break your wallet into smithereens. At Pate's House of Prime Rib, they have five cuts of prime rib. All of the cuts — even the small "Jester" cut for kids — are served with creamed spinach, choice of mashed or baked potato and salad.
The English cut, which is the traditional cut of thin sliced prime rib, choice of potato and salad is $24.90. That's half of the total cost for the same meal at many popular steakhouses where you can spend as much as $9 per side dish.
The remaining cuts at Pate's House of Prime Rib include the "Neapolitan" cut, a large single slice, and is the signature cut of the house, a full pound of beef. The "Robust" cut is 1½ pounds, which as Stanly Pate says "looks like a roast on the plate." The large bone-in ribeye steak also is suitable for the hearty eater.
Beef is what you come to Pate's House of Prime Rib to splurge on, but seafood lovers may be surprised to find that the walleye dish is, to me, one of the best seafood entrees in Naples. It is encrusted with pecans, served with a white sauce and precious few capers. Chef Nate has achieved an elusive combination of savory and sweet in a fish dish that one bite of will not satisfy.
This is a dish that could be shared at table as an appetizer, but it's better as an entrée. If you can't decide between the walleye and the prime rib, the rich texture of the dish is worth a visit in itself — come back at different times so you can enjoy both dishes separately.
Aside from the prime rib, Stanly Pate is most fond of the lamb chops, which are double thick, charbroiled with mint sauce and served with the same choice of sides and house salad. The house salad is special because it is served tableside and "spun" to mix the ingredients. It is served with crumbled blue cheese, red onion and house-made toasted honey pecans and diced tomatoes, while the waiter "spins" it at the table. The dressing is a house-made savory honey-mustard-citrus vinaigrette.
Sitting at the bar at Pate's House of Prime Rib also is a treat because it has that "Cheers" vibe in which everyone knows your name, and the bartenders, while young, are old-school when it comes to service. They really know how to prepare a cocktail. On one of my visits, with friends, for a quick Caesar salad in the early evening, service at the bar was stellar.
Further, the vodka gimlet was the Gulf coast version of the Ivy Gimlet I fell for years ago at its swanky namesake in Los Angeles. It's a cocktail that's really hard to get right.
And a Bloody Mary is always a good idea at Pate's where the bartenders are knowledgeable and generous.
IF YOU GO
Pate's House of Prime Rib
■ Where: Coastland Center Mall, 2048 U.S. 41 N., Naples
■ Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. for dinner and light fare 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. daily
■ Reservations: 239-263-1850